Pauline's Reviews > The Samurai's Garden

The Samurai's Garden by Gail Tsukiyama
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's review
Aug 29, 2008

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bookshelves: adult-fiction, japan, read-2008, reviews
Read in October, 2008

"The Samurai's Garden" by Gail Tsukiyama takes place on the eve of the Second World War. Stephen a young Chinese man is sent to Japan to recover from Tuberculosis. His father runs his business mostly from Japan and therefore the family has a summer home by the sea. It is to this summer home that Stephen goes to recover from his illness. The family home is taken care of by Matsu, whose father use to take care of the home before Matsu.

Matsu is a gardener and a quiet man who has multiple levels to his character. It is through Matsu's care that Stephen recovers and gains his own character.

Via Matsu, Stephen is exposed to the daily on goings of a leprosy colony. Matsu has helped build the colony to help those with leprosy survive with dignity. Sachi who is Matsu’s true love has leprosy and lives in the colony. It was through Matsu’s patient care that she was able to survive the disease. The gift of gardening was given to Sachi from Matsu to help her continue on with life and to help her endure her disease.

Stephen's eyes are opened to the adult world and the tragedies and triumphs that life brings and how some people rise to the occasion and others falter.

The story takes place by the sea and the Japan and China war is in the background. Stephen is conflicted over his respect and love for the Japanese people in his new life and for his Chinese family back a home that are suffering from the Japanese invasions.

"The Samurai's Garden" had some poignant moments and some teaching moments about physical beauty versus spiritual beauty, but it still seemed to drag on in some parts. Stephen's encounters with a beautiful Japanese girl seem formal and distant (as they should be concerning the culture), but then there is one paragraph in the book where they are alone and making-out under a tree which seems so displaced. Passion goes in stages, not from barely looking at each other to total abandon, it made their relationship seem superficial.


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